Turn the beat around motherf*****: Netflix’ new original series The Get Down is the 70s Disco/Hip-Hop musical you didn’t know you needed in your life. Here are five reasons to watch Baz Luhrmann’s game-changing work of art…
The Get Down (2016): Created by Baz Luhrmann; 13 episodes à 60mins., split into two parts; starring Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happiness), Justice Smith (Paper Towns), Herizen Guardiola, Shameik Moore, Tremaine Brown Jr.; Skylan Brooks, Daveed Diggs.
For fans of: Baz Luhrmann’s visual style, Disco and/ or Hip-Hop music, That 70s Show, Studio 54, The Last Days of Disco, Dreamgirls, Straight outta Compton, people calling each other the n-word, graffitti, “live-your-dream” stories, the pursuit of happiness.
I was initially going to suggest that The Get Down was “Studio 54 meets Straight Outta Compton“, but the truth is that Baz Luhrmann’s 13-part series about the rise of hip hop music in late 70s New York City is unlike anything I’ve watched before. If you care to see something truly original and masterful, I cannot recommend The Get Down enough. Here are 5 Reasons to watch…
1. It’s an unprecedented television experience
If you’re the kind of viewer who enjoys formulaic programmes, The Get Down may not be your pair of red pumas: with an average running-time of 60 minutes per episode, the show doesn’t subscribe to the rules of television or cinema. Its style is akin to that of Luhrmann’s previous projects, but the storytelling isn’t as focused as a film’s. Nor does it follow a clear genre formula – it’s not a musical, but not quite a drama. It has elements of comedy and romance, but also features crime and action – so that by episode four, I still had only a very vague idea of where the story was going. And I LOVED it.
What is even more peculiar about The Get Down, is that you usually need a big name to reel viewers in. It could be argued that that name is Luhrmann, after all, he had an estimated budget of 10 million dollars per episode, but rather, I would venture it’s Netflix itself. Over the last two years, the streaming service has continuously presented hit after hit – think Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the upbeat comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or most recently Stranger Things. Even though I still haven’t quite grasped what the “get down” actually is, I’m pretty sure that Netflix is where it’s happening.
2. There are no white people on this show – and that’s a good thing
Arguably the show’s biggest appeal is its largely unknown, entirely non-white cast and the outstanding performances they deliver. It’s still rare for programmes – whether we’re talking about television or cinema – to feature a diverse cast because there is a fallacy in western culture that films and tv shows that do not feature a predominantly white cast, do not tell universal stories, but focus on the “minority experience”. Well, I am a white, twentysomething, Western European woman and I am obsessed with The Get Down, so let’s consider that myth dispelled.
3. It tells a unique and simultaneously universal story
Although the show is marketed as a story about the rise of hip hop and the last days of disco in 70s New York, The Get Down is really a tale of “ad astra per aspera”, from the mud to the stars. It follows a group of South-Bronx teenagers eager to leave their mark on the world. But for Zeke, Shao and the boys, hip hop is about more than fame and fortune, just as becoming a disco singer is about more to Mylene: it’s about making their voices heard in a world that doesn’t even bat an eye if their mother gets shot by a drug dealer outside their house. And it’s about standing out in a city that doesn’t offer them the same opportunities to succeed as their white contemporaries.
4. Baz Luhrmann is the showrunner
If you’re looking forward to seeing Luhrmann’s signature frantic camera movements, you will be disappointed: the mastermind behind Romeo + Juliet and The Great Gatsby isn’t directing this time around. Instead, he acts as showrunner of The Get Down, producing and supervising each episode to shape it according to his trademark style, i.e. a lush aesthetic, overflowing with rich colours, and a vibrant soundtrack.
5. The brotherhood between Zeke and the boys
Sure, Luhrmann’s choice of music and style is quintessential to the show’s feel, but it’s the dynamic between ‘the Fantastic Four plus 1’ that is the heart and soul of The Get Down: they are constantly ribbing each other, but they also challenge each other to raise their game and be better people and they always have each other’s backs.
To binge or not to binge? Don’t binge. Consume slowly and intensely.
Where can I watch? Only on Netflix.